Michael West's Cinema of Shadows is the most fun I've had between the pages of a book in a long time. I honestly can't remember the last time I felt so compelled to keep my wife awake for just a few minutes longer, so I could read just one more scene aloud, only to feel the need to finish just one more chapter.
It's just that kind of book.
This is supernatural horror at its darkest, wildest, and most unapologetic. It's a story populated by ghosts, poltergeists, demons, and psychic phenomena, and one that refuses to waste a single word in justifying itself to the skeptics. I found it so refreshing to become immersed in a good old-fashioned horror story again, to sit back and be entertained by the thrills and the chills, and not be preached at or reasoned with. It's pure popcorn horror, complete with a gallon of sugary soda to fray your nerves and stretch your bladder, keeping you physically and emotionally on edge until the very last page.
Whether he's suggesting something in the shadows, building up to a big reveal, or literally dragging you into Hell, West does an absolutely stellar job of describing the horrors. There are subtle moments of campfire ghost-stories born of urban legends, creepy scenes of Poltergeist like activity, and even some darkly comic moments that reminded me of movies like Ghostbusters or The Frighteners. Once the story really gets going, though, it's sheer paranormal insanity, kind of like an unrated version of the original The Amityville Horror, as re-imagined by Stephen King, and directed by Rob Zombie.
While it's the kind of story that could have succeeded quite well with a few nameless, faceless stock figures to serve as catalysts, West offers us a solid group of characters to humanize the experience and draw us even deeper into the horror. Kim, Tashima, Joss, and Kevin are the core group of students, called upon to investigate the haunted cinema before it faces demolition. There's a surprising amount of tension and maturity represented here, and enough familiarity to allow for some comic moments to relieve the tension. Although Professor Burke initially comes across as a little too stereotypical, he develops very nicely as his backstory is slowly revealed, and he really adds an extra element to the story. Tyler (Doctor Bachman) didn't make much of an impression on me, despite being a likeable enough character, but he does provide Kim with the all-important romantic hero.
I can't recommend this one highly enough.